Morganton Day School Faculty and Staff
Please feel free to contact us for more information or questions.
Melanie Mikusa Ed.D, Head of School
Morganton Day School has been an important part of my life for almost 20 years. I began my MDS career in 1996 teaching Kinders and 1st grade. Creating an environment of joyful learning sparked my own interest in returning to school, penultimately becoming National Board certified and earning my Master’s degree in Reading and Special Education. Recently, I completed my Doctorate in Educational Leadership. It is my privilege to work with the finest students, faculty/staff, parents, and dedicated board everyday. As an IB school, we are a community of global citizens preparing to play an important role in the future.
Denise Pitts, Office Manager
During my more than 10 years at MDS, I have enjoyed watching as the children race to class each morning. The atmosphere in the school promotes learning; I am extremely happy to spend each day in this extremely engaging environment. In addition to my role as Office Manager, I often find myself bandaging boo-boos and taking temperatures. Every day is a wonderful adventure at MDS!
Treesie Cape, Curriculum Coordinator
I have been a member of the MDS community for more than eighteen years, and I am passionate about the teaching and learning that takes place at this school! I am honored to have had the opportunity to be a teacher, a parent, and am currently serving as the curriculum coordinator. I hold a bachelor’s degree in education, a master’s degree in administration, certification in Orton-Gillingham and All Kinds of Minds, and certification as an IB educator through the International Baccalaureate Educator Network. My two children attend Morganton Day School in fourth and seventh grades. As a parent, I cherish the frequent opportunities to support concepts learned at school through conversations at home that are interwoven into our daily lives. As an educator, I am honored to collaborate with motivated, talented teachers.
Meredith McSwain, Director of Advancement
I am excited to return to Morganton Day School this year as the Director of Advancement, charged with both fundraising and communication/marketing. My professional background includes both marketing, finance, and healthcare. I earned my first degree from Wake Forest University in 2003, graduating magna cum laude and with honors in Sociology. I returned to nursing school in 2010 and have worked as a Certified NICU Registered Nurse since 2012. I received a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, in May 2017. While I adore working as a NICU nurse, my passion has always been nonprofit fundraising. I have volunteered and had leadership positions in various organizations, including the Junior League of Wilmington, March of Dimes, the Episcopal church, and Habitat for Humanity. I believe fundraising is more than asking for money and that the ultimate goal is to build a culture of philanthropy at MDS that will span generations.
My family and I moved to Morganton four years ago from my hometown of Wilmington, NC. My husband, Bryn, works as an Assistant Principal in a neighboring county and was raised in Burke County. We have three children, ranging from 3 to 9, all of whom attend MDS and are proud Titans! I consider myself a lifelong learner and continue to seek out experiences that challenge me. In my free time, I enjoy volunteering in the community, running, and spending time with family.
Lower School Faculty
Erin Feduke, Junior Kindergarten
My work with children stems from a fundamental belief that brains are built and not born. The first 2000 days of life have been found to be some of the most important. As a teacher, I am determined to not only help children have the best foundation possible for future learning, but also to make learning a fun, exciting, and joyful experience that is memorable and beneficial.
Brandie Martin, Junior Kindergarten
“Children learn through play.” I see this daily as the Junior Kindergarten Teacher Assistant and it is an integral part of my passion with teaching preschool. Originally from Morganton, my husband and I moved back 4 years ago to be closer to family and the mountains. We feel so lucky to have found MDS and to be a part of this community. My daughter and son both attend MDS and this is my 4th year teaching with the junior kindergarten program. I have a B.A. in English Education, B.A. in English, and a minor in History from Appalachian State University. Additionally, I taught 4 ½ years in NC public schools. After the first part of my teaching career, I attended graduate school at UNCG and acquired my Master’s of Library and Information Studies and worked in various positions for 9 years in public libraries from children’s programming, circulation and reference positions, to library branch manager. I am a lifelong learner and continue my love of learning through various trainings, webinars, early childhood education classes and conferences. I love reading, scrapbooking, hiking, spending time with my family, and being a member of this community.
Elizabeth O’Hagan, Junior Kindergarten
“William Butler Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” I am proud to help fan the flames at Morganton Day School. I have been at MDS for 8 years first as a parent, then volunteer, then a teacher. I am thrilled to continue my second year in the Junior Kindergarten 3-year-old classroom this year after three years in 1st grade. Early education is vital to future school success. As the mother of three Morganton Day School students (two alumni), I deeply appreciate the philosophy of the school and dedication of the faculty. My own education includes a BS in Psychology from Lees-McRae College and work towards completion of a Masters Degree from Lenoir Rhyne University. I love learning and look forward to continuing my own education in the field of Early Childhood Education.”
Melanie Miller, Kindergarten
Having been born and raised in Morganton, my heart lies in it’s future. The future of our community walks through my door each morning, so I make it my goal to send back out my door hands willing to make a change, no matter how small those hands may be! Education is a scaffolding event, and the love of education is deep rooted within those who are met at their level of readiness from the start. Here at Morganton Day School I have the power to do just that for each precious learner that comes my way. What a privilege! Having graduated from Lees McRae College with a Bachelor’s of Science in Education, I am certain that inquiry methods are best for learning. I have many hobbies some of which include: crossfit, running, hiking, enjoying time with my husband and dog, and reading.
Chelsey Chue, 1st Grade
Being able to teach at Morganton Day School is literally a dream come true! A scholar once said “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life”. That is how I feel about teaching at MDS. It has never once felt like work but instead opportunity. Opportunity to work with young minds that will someday change the world. Having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Appalachian State University, I am certain that inquiry based learning is the best way for students to learn! I hope to stay at MDS forever! In my free time I love walking my dog, reading, and spending time with my husband.
Stephanie Cook, 2nd Grade
I am very passionate about teaching, and I believe every child can learn. I consider myself a lifelong learner, and enjoy attending conferences and workshops to learn more about education. I am excited to teach and find it unbelievable that this is my seventh year teaching second grade at Morganton Day School. As a graduate of Lees-McRae College, with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, I believe the inquiry method of instruction at MDS is the best way to nurture students’ natural curiosity.
I am a wife to my amazing husband, mom to two daughters, and a bonus mom to my stepson. In my free time I enjoy reading, going to the mountains with my husband, and spending time with my kids.
Jenna Holt, 3rd Grade
When I moved to Morganton and visited MDS I knew this was the place I wanted to teach! Students were spread out all over the room while actively engaged in their work. I was excited to see multiage pairings and knew this was the place for me.
I now been privileged to be a teacher at MDS for over 10 years and plan to stay here FOREVER!!!! MDS offers a genuine learning environment where every child can thrive. As our curriculum is hands on/minds on, students explore the world around them and make real connections, building a strong foundation for a lifetime of learning.
My education: I am a graduate of Lynchburg College in Virginia with a BA in Child Development with certification K-6. I also hold a Master’s Degree from Appalachian State University in Middle Grades Social Studies. Outside of MDS I love spending time with my family, kayaking, going to the beach, and reading a great book!
Carley Smith, 4th Grade
I was born and raised in California, in the heart of technology and innovation. I saw the direct impact of education and knew that I wanted to be a part of it. I graduated from San Jose State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Child and Adolescent Development Preparation for Teaching. Morganton Day School aligned with my philosophy of teaching through inquiry and child-based learning. Every day I have the chance to work with inquiring minds that will impact positive change in our world. Seeing students work displayed throughout the school, how each class strives to encompass our community in learning, and the emphasis of STEAM. I knew the moment I walked into the building of Morganton Day School it was perfect for me. When I am not molding the minds of our future I enjoy spending time outdoors with my friends and family, traveling, and crafting.
Middle Grades Faculty
Hillary Kline, 5th Grade – English, Humanities, and Science & 6th Grade – English and Humanities
I wanted a strong academic foundation for my son, a place where his excitement for learning would be nurtured, and his curiosity would be cultivated. We found this at Morganton Day School. He became a student and two years later I was given the opportunity to teach at this outstanding school . I graduated from Lees McRae in 2006 with a degree in elementary education. I taught multiple grade levels, but spent most of my career teaching fifth grade science in the public school system. I enjoy children, music, dogs, and exploring our world. I love teaching and the daily joy I receive from our students. I am excited to be part of a school where children are given the opportunity to think for themselves and teachers are given the time to be creative and inspire enthusiasm for learning.
Erin Mishoe, 7th & 8th Grade – English and Humanities
I am a lifelong learner. I graduated from Marshall University with a B.A. in Sport Management and Marketing, a M.A. in Athletic Administration and I have a M.A.T (Master in Teaching). Prior to moving to Morganton, I worked in college athletics and administration.
Originally from West Virginia, I moved to Morganton over five years ago from with my two children. Gracie is a junior at Freedom High School and Liam is in the 6th grade. Although my kids keep me busy, I still find time for running, hiking, going to the gym, reading, and going to music concerts
Heide Putt, Math & Algebra
Upon completing my Masters in Education, I began my classroom teaching career in a Montessori middle school classroom in Charlotte over 20 years ago. After teaching all subjects in the middle school program for 10 years, I moved into middle and high school administration. Teaching, especially at the middle school level has always been my first love and so I feel very blessed to have landed at Morganton Day. In addition, the Montessori philosophy and the IB philosophy of Morganton Day are very similar, so I feel quite at home here. Most recently, I have worked at WPCC teaching math study skills as well as tutoring math and science students. In my classroom I strive to create an atmosphere of mutual respect where every student feels empowered to ask questions and confident in their gifts both in and out of the math classroom. Each year, I look forward to getting to know all the new MDS middle school students and families as well as reflecting upon how the returning students have grown.
Sarah Sawdy, 6th, 7th, and 8th Grade – Science
My name is Sarah Sawdy and I am the middle school science teacher at MDS. This is my eighth year teaching middle school science and my third year teaching at Morganton Day School. In addition to teaching the core 5th thru 8th grade science classes, I also teach STEAM, an elective every trimester and co-teach the Community Action Project (CAP) class. My son, Kendall, and my daughter, Elise, both attend Morganton Day School. I graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor’s in Animal Science and a Master’s in Education. Our science classroom at MDS encourages children to become student-scientists by asking questions and then creating their own investigations to test these questions. I enjoy learning with my students as they explore our world! Outside the classroom, I enjoy all things outdoors: including hiking, camping, mountain biking, kayaking, and gardening.
“Never give up. Never let things out of your control dictate who you are.”
Carolina Barbosa, Spanish
Hola! My name is Carolina Barbosa, I grew up in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. I graduated as a Child Psychologist from Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon (UANL) in 2010. I worked as a Teacher Assistant in 2008 in a private school in Mexico for 2 years. When I graduated, I decided to move to North Carolina with my husband and start a new life together. As a bilingual person, I know that learning to speak a second language is a really important tool. Spanish is in the top five languages spoken around the world, so being able to read, speak, and understand it could open a lot of doors for anyone who is interested. I’ve shared my experiences at MDS since 2011, and believe in the IB philosophy. The students are exposed to the language and the Hispanic culture all the time during my class.
Ashley Craft, Music
My name is Ashley Craft and I teach Music at MDS. This is my thirteenth year in education and my ninth year at MDS. I teach at MDS because I believe in inquiry-based learning and in the importance of a strong educational community. I have a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Gardner Webb University. Outside of the classroom, I love spending time outdoors and enjoying time with my friends and family.
Leslee Bentley, Technology
My name is Leslee Bentley and I am the technology teacher at Morganton Day School. I moved to Morganton 6 years ago from Hickory. I am very excited to have found MDS. The style of learning is very intriguing and the atmosphere is welcoming. I am looking forward to the school year and working with all of our outstanding students in technology class. I have a Masters in Business from Lenoir Rhyne and have a passion for technology and STEAM.
Trudy Memmel, PE & Health
Fitness has always been my passion. After graduating from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, I have taught Physical Education and Health in Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina for over 10 years. Through Health and Physical Education, students are able to develop and practice healthy habits that will enhance their lives. I believe that it is very important to lead by example. Whenever possible I involve myself in activities that promote a healthy lifestyle. This includes events such as performance workouts, swimming, biking, running, pilates, yoga, and the occasional competitions such as 5K , 10K, races and sprint triathlons. I have lived in Morganton for over 20 years. My husband and I have raised our four boys in North Carolina and have enjoyed the active lifestyle that this area offers. I am passionate about physical education and the mental and physical benefits it provides.
Kara Jones, Visual Arts
I love to create with the student artists here at MDS. I always say we spend the least amount of time talking about art and the most amount of doing art. Art education is mostly skill building. Our students need the space to practice hands on learning. I SHOW our artists’ ideas and techniques in all aspects of art including painting, pottery, drawing, sculpture, fibers and computer arts.
My fine art degree is from Appalachian State University where I specialized in Graphic Design. I love to paint at home with a focus on color study. My husband Bryan and my 3 kids love to spend time together outdoors, eating good food, relaxing and playing with our dog Toast.